Today, a left-wing friend remembered me saying something six years ago. That I’d warned him the European Union was reviving xenophobic nationalism across the Continent. I had, my leftie friend said thoughtfully, called that one correctly.
Along with other better-qualified people like Bernard Connolly, I was already prophesying this back in the 1990s. I recall late in that decade struggling to explain to a charming but slightly slow-witted Marxist book publisher in London how the euro currency would revive racism, boost votes for ultra nationalists, and make politics more extreme throughout Europe.
This matters since Britons who voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd were daubed with the brush of race hatred and insular jingoism without question in much of the media. Much was made of a supposedly sharp rise in incidents of hate crime (thankfully mainly bloodless occurrences where someone aggressive would shout insults at brown-skinned people on a bus somewhere in Britain). However the murder a week before polling day of a likeable pro-EU Labour woman MP, Jo Cox, at the hands of a white British extremist raised accusations to fever pitch; that to vote against the EU was an evil act.
Like the oddly similar death in 2003 of Swedish pro-euro-currency MP, Anna Lindh, also just days before a national vote (whether to join the euro currency or not), Jo Cox’s murder failed to swing enough British voters to win a majority for staying in the European Union. Nor did Lindh’s death 13 years earlier fail to stop Swedish voters keeping their country out of the doomed single currency. Lindh’s killer said later in Swedish court said he “had no idea why” he had stabbed the woman politician dead in a public place. Whereas Jo Cox’s defiant alleged murderer apparently gave his name in a London court as “Death to Traitors”. It emerged he’s been receiving psychiatric treatment for several years.
It’s hard to know how much bigger the June 23rd Brexit majority would have been had a woman politician not been publicly mudered the week before in one of those rarest of events, an assassination by an English nationalist. Her distraught widower, Brian Cox, urged people to show their condolences at his vivacious young wife’s death by voting for Britain to stay in the Brussels pact, so nationwide sympathy and horror probably won Remain some votes and abstentions. Less forgivably, pro-EU campaigners were quick to blame Cox’s death on the xenophobia apparently “unleashed” (a widely used term) by the campaign to vote Britain out of the Union.
So why have I and other people been warning for over 20 years that in fact it is the EU which has been feeding extreme-nationalist sentiment and dangerously reviving skinhead parties since its foundation?
Two simple reasons.
Firstly, the EEC/EC/EU since the Treaty of Rome in 1957 has claimed that two world wars and the 1870 war were created by the evil of “nationalism”. Some people, such as Swiss, Portuguese, or Icelandic nationalists might ask whether those three wars were perhaps caused by specifically France and Germany, rather than some abstract notion of nationalism, but in any case the founding myth of the EU says all nationalism must be surpassed. This means that any Spaniard or Belgian espousing national patriotism is viewed with suspicion. A happily proud Swede or Dane or Frenchman has something to apologise for by this theory. Why don’t they want to build a united Europe? Why are they clinging to these archaic, dangerous nation states that haunted the recent past? So goes the argument.
Some nationalities played along with the post-nationalist idea more enthusiastically than others. So when a few years ago I asked a girl wearing a Dr Seuss hat at a midsummer craft festival in a Hungarian meadow what nationality she was, and she said in English “European”, I knew she was German.
The result was predictable. All “civilised” politicians in the founding EEC nations agreed nationalism must be overcome. Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Socialists, Euro communists, all the mainstream Continental political groups agreed that old-style patriotism was at best embarrassing, at worst dangerous and wicked. This meant that ordinary Frenchmen, Germans, Dutchmen, Belgians who wanted to stay French, German, etc had no-one else to vote for but extreme nationalists. Anyone wishing to oppose ever-closer union had no other home than among the xenophobic fringe parties. From being almost non-existent in the immediate aftermath of World War 2, anti-foreigner nationalism was reviving as a political force already in the first decade of EEC existence. (Of course, where a first-past-the-post voting system would have kept them weak, proportional representation helps extremist parties grow, but that’s another discussion.) France’s Front National was founded in 1972, a mere 15 years after the Treaty of Rome. The perhaps even more extreme Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Blok (now under another name) was founded in 1978.
With the breezy contempt we’ve become used to, the bourgeois Europe-wide political class in Strasbourg and Brussels dismissed the concerns & loyalties of working-class Continentals as primitive tribalism. The latter’s “stupid views” were bound to wither away once the superiority of transnationalism became evident. No wonder pro-EU campaigners so furiously denounced British ‘Leave’ voters as uneducated, uninformed, inferior people. Or as one (British) friend of mine charmingly quoted a friend of his online, “Should never have been a vote for the people of this country to decide. Living down here in London you sometimes forget that the vast majority of the U.K. is made up of very thick, uneducated, stupid, racist arseholes.”
Of course, if we follow the wisdom of the humble billionaire Warren Buffett (who never invests in a business he doesn’t understand) then ordinary electors should always vote to leave an organisation they don’t understand.
Secondly, the EU’s single currency Titanic tries to raise levels of European labour migration to the very high levels the US has historically had: three times as many Americans move cities to change jobs as Frenchmen do just inside France. By stopping any country devaluing its own currency to balance its books the euro blatantly aimed to make Italians, Greeks, Spaniards, Frenchmen work as hard as Americans and Germans…. instead of what Mediterraneans generally prefer to do, namely eat well, drink well, dress up, spend time with friends & family, actually live life rather than toil. It was obvious this was going to lead to trouble.
Anyone with their eyes open saw already in the 1980s, certainly by the early 1990s, that the euro currency would strengthen the EU’s resurrection of neo-nazi politics. This was because no other parties would give voice to the very reasonable desire of ordinary Continentals not to live in a currency zone like the US dollar bloc. And once people find only one group will listen to their concerns, they naturally begin to listen to it.
Surprise, surprise, the EU is now a double engine for intensifying xenophobia & race hatred. ©
Mark Griffith keeps a weblog at http://www.otherlanguages.org